Therapist or hygienist?
Oral Health Therapy is a four year full time Bachelor degree course differing slightly from the qualification of Dental Hygienist. An oral health therapist, in addition to scaling and polishing, root scaling and deep cleaning for gum disease, can also diagnose and carry out treatments including fillings in children. Both practitioners can take dental x-rays and remove sutures, and both are generally working directly with a qualified dentist.
Therapist or dentist?
The five years of training for a degree in Dentistry includes study and practice in the entire range of treatments, from small fillings to bridges, root canal therapy and extractions etc. In addition, dentists must learn to accurately diagnose conditions, including those that require referral on to medical specialists.
Treatment planning, the methodical staging of complex work often involving numerous teeth, is also studied by dentistry students. In contrast, oral health therapists can diagnose and carry out treatment plans on children (up to 18 yrs of age) and concentrate on oral hygiene in adults. A key role of the oral therapist is coaching and educating on best care for your oral health between visits.
Visiting the oral health therapist
The first time you’ll be offered an appointment with the hygienist, or oral therapist, will be for a regular check-up.
Your dentist will generally see you on arrival and perform the usual assessment of teeth, gums and other tissues. Occasionally the oral therapist will commence, and the dentist will see you during or after the clean. You will always see the dentist during a 6 monthly check-up appointment. The entire visit may be longer than before because the therapist dedicates time ensuring you are using your own brush and floss to the best effect. She may also initiate a discussion on diet, especially the timing and quality of both food and drinks.
When gum disease is diagnosed by the dentist, you may return for a series of appointments just with the therapist. In this case, you are likely to require careful deep cleaning to remove all the material -accumulate plaque – that is irritating the gums. You will also be re-examined by the dentist who may recommend a regime of regular care.